• Understanding breast cancer treatment at Stage IV

    Stage IV breast cancer is also known as advanced breast cancer or metastatic breast cancer. Instead of treating breast cancer at the source of the tumor, physicians take a systemic approach to care for patients at stage IV of the disease. Here is what you need to know about stage IV breast cancer and how it is treated.

    What are the characteristics of stage IV breast cancer?
    At stage IV, breast cancer has metastasized beyond the breast tissue and the lymph nodes near the breast to other parts of the body. Some of the organs that are often involved when breast cancer spreads are:

    • Bones
    • Liver
    • Lungs
    • Brain

    Because the cancer is now in more than one part of the body at stage IV, your cancer care team will need to treat the disease in all of the parts of the body that are affected.

    What is systemic care?
    Systemic care for cancer means that the treatments are targeted at the body as a whole, instead of being focused on the localized site of the cancer. For stage IV breast cancer, this means not only treating cancer at the site of the tumor in the breast but instead taking a broader approach to care.

    Some of the systemic treatments used for stage IV breast cancer are:

    • Hormone therapy
    • Chemotherapy
    • Targeted drug therapy

    Often, women receive a combination of these systemic treatments. Although stage IV breast cancer is usually not considered to be curable, these treatments can stop the progression of the disease and help women live longer.

    Are localized treatments still used?
    In some instances, localized treatments can be combined with systemic care to achieve the best results. For example, your physician may recommend surgery to remove a tumor or radiation of a specific affected location in order to boost the effectiveness of systemic care.

    Good Samaritan Hospital provides comprehensive cancer care in San Jose, combining the very latest discoveries in medical advances with compassionate support from a multidisciplinary team of specialists. Contact us today at (888) 724-2362 for more information about our cancer care program and to get a referral to one of our cancer specialists.

  • What to expect at your first mammogram

    Mammograms are a key part of preventive care for women. Starting at an age that is recommended by your physician based on your personal needs, you should have regular mammograms so that your breast tissues can be examined for abnormalities that could indicate breast cancer. If you have never had a mammogram, it’s normal to be a little nervous about what to expect. Here is what you need to know.

    Arriving at the screening facility
    When you arrive for your mammogram, you will be checked in for your appointment. The technician who will be performing your mammogram will ask you some questions about your health to ensure that it’s safe for you to have a mammogram. It’s important to let the technician know if you could be pregnant.

    You will be given a smock that ties in the front to wear. Many women prefer to wear pants or a skirt on the day of their mammogram so that they can easily remove their tops while leaving their bottoms on.

    Getting your mammogram
    When you enter the room in which your mammogram will be taken, your technician will place one of your breasts on a flat plate and position it so that a clear picture can be taken. Another plate will be lowered from above to compress the breast. Some women experience mild discomfort at this point, but as the video explains, the process is over quickly.

    You need to stand every still and hold your breath for a few seconds while the image is taken. Then, the plate will lift, allowing your technician to place your breast in a different position for another photo. This process will be completed on both breasts until the technician has all of the necessary pictures.

    Getting your results
    Your technician will tell you when you can expect to get the results. They will be provided to your physician. You may also get a letter in the mail.

    Your results may say that your breasts are all clear, or they may advise you to have a follow-up mammogram or biopsy to explore a suspected issue further.

    The Breast Care Center at Good Samaritan Hospital provides comprehensive breast health care, including mammograms, ultrasounds, and biopsy procedures. For a referral to our breast health team in San Jose, call (888) 724-2362.

  • Your guide to living with hepatitis

    Hepatitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver. There are multiple forms of the disease, some of which can be treated and some of which are chronic, but there are some general management strategies that can make living with any form of hepatitis easier. Protect your wellbeing and feel your best with these strategies.

    Restrict alcohol
    Drinking alcohol takes a heavy toll on your liver. Even people with healthy livers can develop liver disease in response to excessive alcohol intake, but when you have hepatitis, it is even more important to restrict alcohol.

    It is advisable to avoid alcohol completely to give your liver the best protection. However, your doctor may give you the okay to drink with heavy restrictions—for example, only enjoying one alcoholic beverage on holidays. Because taking acetaminophen can exacerbate the impact of alcohol on the liver, never take Tylenol or any medication that contains acetaminophen when you drink.

    Manage fatigue
    Fatigue is a significant symptom of some forms of hepatitis. For some people, it can be crippling. Getting an adequate amount of rest each night is essential if you have hepatitis.

    Some people struggle to work because of the impact of hepatitis-related fatigue. Telecommuting, flex hours, and job share programs can all help if fatigue is interfering with your workday.

    Protect others from exposure
    When you have hepatitis, prevent others from being exposed to your blood as much as possible. That means keeping cuts covered and not sharing razors, toothbrushes, or needles. Even minuscule amounts of blood can transmit hepatitis.

    Some forms of hepatitis can also be transmitted via bodily fluids during sexual contact. Latex condoms can help to reduce the risk of infection.

    It’s possible to live a healthy life with hepatitis through homecare strategies and close disease management by a specialist. If you have hepatitis, contact Good Samaritan Hospital for a referral to a specialist who can diagnose, treat, and manage this disease. Request a referral to a physician in our network in San Jose by calling (888) 724-2362.

  • Becoming more informed about your child’s health

    As a parent, you are no longer only responsible for managing your own health. You also have to take control of your child’s health—and that can be scary. Pediatricians understand how overwhelming it can be for parents to manage their kids’ health, and they are always willing to provide the support that parents need to feel confident about the decisions they make about care for their kids. Getting informed is the first step. Here is what you need to know.

    Understand the kind of care that is needed
    One of the biggest challenges for parents is knowing when a child needs emergency care, when he or she needs to see the pediatrician, and when to care for symptoms at home. First-time parents often seek a higher level of care than their kids need, and doctors encourage parents to err on the side of caution.

    As discussed in the video, it’s important to get to know what is normal and what isn’t for your child. This knowledge will help you act quickly when your child needs emergency care and recognize when you can manage symptoms at home.

    Ask questions
    During visits with the pediatrician, don’t hesitate to ask questions about your child’s health. The physician wants you to be an active partner in keeping your child healthy, and asking questions is the best way to get informed.

    It can help to prepare a list of questions before an appointment so you don’t forget to address any important issues.

    Be an advocate
    As a parent, you know your child better than any physician. Don’t be afraid to advocate your child’s health if you feel like your concerns are being dismissed.

    Advocating for your child’s health also helps you increase your knowledge about the issues that affect him or her, since it will prompt more in-depth conversations with physicians.

    From the emergency room to our pediatric intensive care unit , Good Samaritan Hospital is here to be your partner in keeping your child healthy. Visit our ER if your child is having a medical emergency, or call (888) 724-2362 to ask for a referral to a pediatrics specialist in San Jose.

  • What causes schizophrenia and how is it diagnosed?

    Schizophrenia is a serious, chronic mental health condition that can cause delusions and psychoses. It usually appears during early adulthood and is more common in men, but it can happen at any age to anyone. There is no cure for schizophrenia, but with medications and behavioral health services , it can be managed. Getting an early diagnosis can help people with schizophrenia prevent serious complications.

    What exactly is schizophrenia?
    As the video explains, schizophrenia is a biological disorder of the brain. This means that it response to medication. Therapy is sometimes helpful for treatment management, but therapy alone is not effective for treating the disease.

    People with schizophrenia often start by displaying symptoms of depression, and then later go on to develop disordered thinking, hallucinations, and inappropriate behaviors. They may become paranoid, develop unusual beliefs, or become irrationally angry.

    What causes schizophrenia?
    The exact cause of the disease is not known. However, physicians do have some ideas about factors that can play a role. These include:

    • Genetics —Having a family member with schizophrenia increases the risk of developing it.
    • Environment—Physicians believe that being exposed to viruses before birth during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy can add to the risk of schizophrenia later in life.
    • Brain chemistry—Dopamine, glutamate, and neuron networks may all play a role in schizophrenia.
    • Substance abuse—Marijuana use, particularly at a young age, may increase the risk of schizophrenia and may cause the disease to occur earlier in life.

    How is it diagnosed?
    The process of diagnosing schizophrenia is challenging. Many people with schizophrenia symptoms do not recognize them, which can make it difficult for doctors to know that someone is experiencing signs of the disease.

    Schizophrenia is diagnosed when other causes of symptoms, such as brain tumors, drug-induced psychosis, and other mental illnesses, are ruled out. Patients who are diagnosed with schizophrenia have at least two of these symptoms happening on an ongoing basis for an extended period of time:

    • Delusions
    • Hallucinations
    • Disorganized speech
    • Disorganized/catatonic behavior
    • Negative symptoms (symptoms that diminish abilities, such as dull or flat emotions)

    Good Samaritan Hospital provides inpatient and outpatient behavioral health treatments for diagnosis and management of a wide range of mental illnesses. To request a referral to one of our behavioral health specialists in San Jose, call (888) 724-2362.

  • What women with arthritis should know about pregnancy

    Although arthritis can have an impact on pregnancy, most women are able to have a pregnancy that is safe and healthy for both mom and baby. The key is to work closely with your healthcare team, including both your OBGYN and arthritis-care provider, to monitor both your pregnancy and your arthritis throughout. Here is what you need to know about pregnancy and arthritis.

    The impacts of arthritis on pregnancy vary.
    Your type of arthritis will influence the impact you experience during pregnancy. For example, rheumatoid arthritis often goes into remission during pregnancy then flares up soon after birth. Lupus may flare up during pregnancy, and osteoarthritis pain can be exacerbated by pregnancy weight gain.

    Talk to your physician about the impacts you should expect during your pregnancy, so that you can vigilant about your symptoms. You may wish to see a high-risk OBGYN who is accustomed to treating expectant mothers who have chronic health conditions.

    You may need to adjust your medications.
    Many medications for arthritis are not safe to take during pregnancy, but some, including some immunosuppressants taken for inflammatory arthritis, may be acceptable for you and your baby.

    Don’t stop taking any of your medications without talking to your physician. He or she will weigh the risk of stopping medicines with the risks to your pregnancy and help you find a treatment plan that is safe and that controls your arthritis symptoms.

    You will need a plan for post-delivery.
    As you make plans for managing your arthritis during your pregnancy, don’t forget to plan for the period after you give birth. As your body adjusts to not being pregnant, your arthritis may be prone to flare-ups. Arthritis symptoms can also make it difficult to care for your baby.

    Plan to have as much help as you can in the period after giving birth, so you can get the rest you need. Talk to your physician about when you can restart your usual medical plan, particularly if you are breastfeeding.

    The birthing center and women’s health teams at Good Samaritan Hospital help mothers have the healthiest pregnancy, labor, and delivery possible, with full support at every stage. Find out why so many families in San Jose choose our hospital to give birth and get a referral to a doctor by calling (888) 724-2362.

  • When does osteoporosis typically start?

    Osteoporosis is a condition that leads to porous, fragile bones that are prone to fractures. It is often thought of as a woman’s disease but can affect men as well. Although the disease is not life threatening, it can lead to serious fractures and loss of mobility, especially in seniors. Discuss your risk of osteoporosis with your physician to find out if you need to be screened or if there are steps you can take to reduce the chances that you will develop it.

    Osteoporosis onset
    Osteoporosis can occur at any age but is most common after age 50. At this age, the rate of bone loss increases dramatically, especially in women. For men, the onset is often later. Women begin to lose bone density rapidly at this age because of declining amounts of estrogen due to menopause.

    In addition to menopause, there are other things that can cause osteoporosis to happen earlier in life. These risks include:

    • Lack of exercise
    • Malnutrition
    • Anorexia
    • Certain medications
    • Smoking

    Screening tests
    Physicians can screen for osteoporosis with a bone mineral density scan test, or DEXA scan. This painless test uses x-ray technology to determine if you have low bone density, so that you can begin treatment to prevent further bone loss if necessary.

    This test can also be used to confirm an osteoporosis diagnosis and track the effectiveness of treatments if you have already been diagnosed.

    Treatment options
    Medications, including hormone therapy, may be recommended for osteoporosis. Your physician may also recommend that you make dietary changes and get more exercise to improve your muscle strength and balance.

    Fall prevention is also an important part of osteoporosis treatment. Because bones are very vulnerable to fractures during falls when you have osteoporosis, prevention is critical. Your provider can give you information about changes you can make at home to prevent falls.

    Could you be at risk of osteoporosis? Request a referral to a physician in San Jose at Good Samaritan hospital to find out. We offer comprehensive diagnostic imaging services as well as emergency care for fractures when needed. To call our hospital, dial (888) 724-2362.

  • What are the most prevalent cancer risks for women?

    Cancer can affect anyone, but cancer does not affect everyone in the same way. Women have a higher risk of certain kinds of cancer than men, and knowing their risks can help them make smart decisions about lifestyle choices and screenings. Early diagnosis is critical for the best possible cancer care outcomes, so women should consider talking to their providers about the cancer tests that are right for them. Let’s take a closer look at the types of cancer that are most prevalent amongst women.

    Breast cancer
    Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. It can happen at any age, but the risk increases with age. Having a family history of the disease is another significant risk factor.

    Mammograms are screening tests that are performed to diagnose breast cancer, and they can be life saving because they allow for early detection of the disease. Your provider can tell you when you should start having mammograms and how often you should have them, based on your personal health history.

    Colon cancer
    Colon cancer is most common in women over the age of 50. Fortunately, it is usually slow moving and can be cured when caught in its earliest stages. Screening tests let physicians find polyps in the colon before they become malignant, which will prevent cancer from developing.

    Most women should start colon cancer screenings at age 50 and repeat every five to 10 years, but women with increased risks, such as a personal or family history of colon cancer, should be screened more often.

    Endometrial cancer
    Endometrial cancer is cancer that grows in the lining of the uterus. It occurs most often in women over the age of 55, though any woman can get it. Women who have taken estrogen, got their first period at an early age, or had menopause later in life are especially at risk.

    Screening for endometrial cancer is usually done by biopsy. Your physician can tell you if you need a screening biopsy.

    The women’s services and cancer care teams at Good Samaritan Hospital are committed to helping women get the diagnoses and treatments they need when cancer occurs. Contact our hospital in San Jose for a referral by calling (888) 724-2362.

  • Using occupational therapy to age in place

    Occupational therapy plays an important role in health and recovery for people of all ages, but for seniors it could be the key to staying at home rather than moving to an assisted living facility. With the help of an occupational therapist, seniors can age in place safely, even when they are facing health issues. Here is what you need to know about occupational therapy and how it can be used to help seniors stay in familiar surroundings.

    What is occupational therapy?
    Occupational therapy helps people learn new ways of doing everyday activities. It is particularly useful for people who have a physical impairment that affects strength or mobility, as through therapy, people can perfect different ways of accomplishing tasks that work for their needs.

    Occupational therapists work with people in a number of different capacities. Some of the things they do include:

    • Helping people learn how to do basic tasks again after a stroke
    • Helping children with autism adapt to classroom settings
    • Helping people who have experienced a disability do tasks in a different way

    How can occupational therapists help seniors?
    For many seniors and their families, the question of remaining at home versus living in an assisted living facility looms large. For seniors who want to age in place, occupational therapy can play a major part. There are many ways occupational therapists can help seniors and their families, such as:

    • Evaluating the home to look for safety risks
    • Evaluating the movement, balance, and mobility of seniors to determine if aging in place is safe
    • Making recommendations for modifications that can make the home safer, such as additional lighting or grab rails

    Occupational therapists can also help seniors learn how to navigate the home and do everyday activities safely.

    Good Samaritan Hospital’s Rehabilitation Center in San Jose provides comprehensive therapy and rehabilitation options for patients of all ages. Learn more about our occupational therapy program or request a referral for rehabilitation services by calling (888) 724-2362.

  • How do blood tests work and what can they reveal?

    Blood tests are extremely common diagnostic tools used by physicians. Through blood tests, doctors can determine if you have or are at risk for certain medical conditions, and track how well a treatment is working. Blood tests are usually quick and easy, and they can be performed in a medical office, lab, or hospital setting .

    What happens during a blood test?
    During a blood test , a doctor, nurse, or specially trained healthcare provider called a phlebotomist will draw blood via needle stick into a vein or a finger stick. For blood drawn from a vein, the needle stick is usually done on the inside of the elbow. Most people find that the process is painless or only causes discomfort for a short amount of time.

    The blood is typically stored in test tubes. It is then sent to a lab, where it will either tested as it is or put through a process to separate the blood cells from the plasma that holds them.

    What can doctors learn from blood tests?
    Your physician can use blood tests to screen for a number of different conditions. Some of the things that can be revealed through a blood test are:

    • Cholesterol
    • Blood glucose
    • Electrolytes
    • Hormone levels
    • Blood enzymes
    • Blood cell counts
    • Clotting agents

    This information can help your provider diagnose everything from diabetes to heart disease and kidney disease. Blood tests can also be used to diagnose thyroid problems, some forms of cancer, and some autoimmune diseases. In emergency care, blood tests can be used to determine if someone is having a heart attack.

    How do I prepare for a blood test?
    In many cases, there is no preparation necessary for a blood test. For some tests, you may need to fast before having a sample drawn. Your provider will give you instructions to follow, if necessary.

    Throughout Good Samaritan Hospital, we rely on blood tests and other advanced diagnostic tools to ensure every patient gets the care he or she needs. You can find out more about our hospital services in San Jose by dialing (888) 724-2362.

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